Saved By A Loophole

By Terence Fernandez and Llew-Ann Phang, The Sun

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 15, 2010): No action can be taken against ineligible buyers of low-cost homes meant for the poor, no thanks to a legal loophole.

The National Housing Policy (NHP) which stipulates who is eligible for low-cost homes has not been gazetted, hence there is no legal compulsion to enforce its guidelines.

This startling discovery was made by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) which revealed its findings of a six-month probe on low-cost ownership by the rich in Selangor.

Its Commissioner Datuk Seri Abu Kassim Mohamed, however, said this did not mean that the commission had closed the case. The MACC will use its powers to compel the state governments to gazette the NHP so that it can be enforced.

He said MACC’s Inspection and Consultancy Division will be heavily involved in this exercise to educate state officers and politicians.

In May, theSun reported on the abuse of low-cost ownership. Units were allotted to senior government officers, including department heads and directors of the
Petaling Jaya City Council.

The RM2,500 household income criterion was bent as ineligible buyers were allowed to declare a disposable monthly income of RM2,500 after deducting household
expenses including maid’s salary, car loans and children’s tuition.

“This is not the end, but the beginning for changes to the NHP. We are going to write to the State Housing and Property Boards to compel them to inform the state governments of the need to gazette the policy,” Abu Kassim told theSun today.

“We will go and speak to the chief ministers and mentris besar to explain why they need to gazette it. I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t gazette it but if they refuse, then we will be watching to find out why,” he said.

“This is stealing from the poor. Low-cost housing is not meant for people who own bungalows,” said a visibly upset Abu Kassim, adding that he did not want the public to feel that they had been let down as the MACC was not giving up.

“Now that we have identified the problem, we are going to fix it. We cannot legislate but we can advise and even compel officers and agencies to act in the best interest of the public,” he said.

Housing and Local Government Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Abu Bakar Hassan said there was no need to gazette the NHP if state authorities were sincere and followed set guidelines.

“It is a general policy and the states are involved in the implementation of the action plans – for example the state is at the approving level of construction of medium-cost houses and ensuring that the quota of houses is set for the low income group,” he said.

He said under the policy, 50% of every development needed to be affordable homes meant for squatters and those who had a monthly household income of RM2,500.

“The selling price for low-cost homes cannot be more than RM42,000,” he said.

Another guideline is that applicants for low-cost homes must be first-time owners.
However, most of the ineligible buyers had listed addresses at posh neighbourhoods in Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam.